A Night at the Theatre

Eliza blinked rapidly as her eyes focused on the drink in her hand. She glanced up, and her shocked gaze took in theatrical scene around her. Everything in the enormous auditorium was swathed in faded opulence. Scarlet brocade fell in thick cascades from the ornately carved boxes surrounding the balcony. A deep crimson curtain hung heavily over the wooden stage, with the white and gold proscenium soaring above it. It was the sort of splendor that had always enthralled her.

But…

“Something wrong, miss?”

She turned to see a gaunt usher standing next to her seat, dressed in funereal black. His parchment face was uncomfortably close to hers, and his bloodless lips were stretched taught across his rotting teeth.

“No. I’m fine. It’s just… I’m fine. Totally fine.”

She sighed in relief as he moved slowly away, and returned her attention to the drink in her hand. What was it? Was there something in it? Because she had NO IDEA where she was, and no memory of how she had gotten here. She noticed a program lying on the seat next to her, and snatched it up.

Theatre of the Dead was scrawled across the top, in large black letters written in some kind of gothic script. Startled, her eyes scanned down the page. “Our Town” was the scheduled performance for today. Not one of her favorites, but she supposed it was appropriate. She would have preferred one of the shows scheduled for later in the month – “The Uninvited” and “The Woman in Black” rounded out the program over the next few weeks. She started to flip through the cast list just as the lights began to dim, and a man walked slowly to the center of the stage.

Apparently it was the director. His cold, raspy voice started the announcements. She was only half listening at the beginning, but her head jerked up in horror as she heard him say “And our ghostly actors welcome all of you who have so recently passed into our realm from beyond the veil…”

Did he just say she was dead? This was ridiculous. Clearly she was drugged. Or hypnotized. But she wasn’t planning to stay to find out. She stood quickly, and walked purposefully towards the back of the theatre. In the dim light one of the ushers caught her eye and started in pursuit, so she walked faster. She could hear him following her. Could hear them. She broke into a run when she realized the footsteps where converging on her from all directions. She had no idea how many were pursuing her as she crashed through the sagging front door to the pavement outside, and desperately hailed a cab that had just dropped off a fare across the street.

Tumbling into the back seat, she finally glanced behind her to see…nothing. The building behind her was run-down and dark. The door hung loosely off of its hinges, as if it had been smashed open with a battering ram, but there were no signs of any occupants within. As the cab pulled away, she noticed the crumbling marquee above it, with THEATRE OF THE LIVING written in large, blood red letters above the door.

When the cab finally reached her apartment she stumbled inside, realizing as she did so that her hand was still grasping the wine glass she had been holding at the theatre. She put it down just inside her front door, and climbed, exhausted, between the crumpled bed sheets.

***

Eliza woke up in the morning as the sun streamed into her tiny apartment, painting her walls a deep golden shade. She shivered slightly, with the memories of the dream lingering on the edge of her mind. As she moved to the shower, she marveled at how a thing that had felt so vivid at the moment of waking could be fading so rapidly from her mind. And wondered vaguely why there was an empty wineglass sitting on her floor.